UPDATE: I GIVE UP ON ANALYZING ZAYN AND HIS PERSPECTIVE ON ZARRY. HERE’S WHY.
I continue to have such a phobia of analyzing Zayn and his music, ughhhhh. There are a lot of things I’m confident about when it comes to analyzing him, but idk, Zayn just has this way about him that makes me feel like anything I try to say to “analyze” him or his music would be inadequate and off-base. He makes me feel unconfident in my assessment. But I’m going to keep trying…because I think there is something super important going down with Zayn, that we may or may not see come to light soon. And, yes, I very much do believe he is still in love with Harry and on the brink of making a major move.
Tightrope, my love.
I really can’t explain how deeply in love I fell with this song when I got a chance to hear Zayn’s album early (thanks so much to my lovely friend). I want to show proof of that btw. Here is a screenshot of some of my Instagram DMs with my thoughts on “Tightrope” and other songs before the track-list was even released.
Then the tracklist was released January 8th on his website.
Then after the track-list came out I shared a little more of what I knew on Twitter and IG. But here is just another piece of proof that I heard the song early (since some people may not want to believe it.)
When I heard the song, I screamed and let my mom hear it, because I was so sure it was a song about him wanting to walk in his “rainbow paradise.” She only knows very vaguely about Zarry, but she’s completely sold. And the part that affected me viscerally was the “sitting with my legs across your torso, we are who we are when we’re alone…” It slapped me all the way back to 2014 even though I knew nothing about Zarry back then lol.
Right away I recognized it was a clever drawback to “we are who we are when no one’s watching…” from “I Won’t Mind,” and I couldn’t tell you all this for several weeks! It made my heart sputter, just hearing it secretly and then hearing something so brazen and direct to a time long before he got with Gigi. And the drawback to 2014 is what makes the torso lyric extremely impactful; it all just screams HARRY.
And it looks like Zayn and I think a lot alike sometimes, because, uh….
Scary af. Now on to my thoughts on this phenomenal song!
Tightrope is tremendously important for Zayn as a moment of unflinching honesty. As I’ve said repeatedly now, I never thought we’d hear anything like this from him, so I’m enchanted that he opened up in this way. I believe this is his most forthright song on the album, meaning it’s his most vulnerable. There is no ego. There is no bravado. There is no discussion about sexual chemistry (even though we live for the way Zayn illustrates his bedroom prowess.)
We know Zayn’s lovemaking is another means by which he guards his true emotions, because it’s all physical and he doesn’t really have to express himself if he preoccupies his lover with being seduced. He is dominant and confident when it comes to the bedroom, and he has every right to brag about that. And he does it with much tact. He’s one of the few artists who can sing about sex and lend you vicarious butterflies and shivers. He has a way of saying things that are just ughhh. Whereas other artists struggle to express their physical activities in a sexy or compelling way.
“Imma get you right I will…when I touch you tell me how it feels.” (screams)
“My skin on your skin, again and again…sweat for me…sweat for me…” (dead)
“Love you every single night…that’s when I take your clothes off…can we stay in the bedroom?” (ascends to heaven)
Phuck he is TOO good a that.
In “Tightrope,” however, he leaves all that aside. He forces himself to express not only his love, but also his willingness to figuratively step off into the deep end with this person. He paints a picture of himself hanging from a tightrope that he’s been walking on for so long (struggling to keep his footing and stay balanced between the two extremes in his life) and then informs us that his lover is walking the same tightrope. Harry is right there beside him. And Zayn knows no matter what he chooses, whether he wants to fall or whether he wants to be pulled back up onto the theoretical safe-place of balancing atop the rope, his lover “has his arm.” Meaning his lover will either pull him back up, or fall with him, because Zayn makes it clear at this point his own grip is almost gone.
Lyrics like “I’m already up here and I got my eyes closed, and I ain’t never fell from a love this tall…” are the most convincing in demonstrating how afraid Zayn is.
Zayn makes a reference to a “house of fear” in 2015 when performing his stream-of-consciousness track: “Lucozade.” But, it was never clarified what exactly he was afraid of (although we have an idea.) Someone said it best the other day when I asked people to give me attributes of both Zayn and Harry. They said: “Zayn is a walking oxymoron.” And in regards to fear, I must agree with them. Zayn is both one of the bravest and most fearful people I have ever seen. I don’t see how that’s possible. He is so brave in so many different capacities, especially when he left the band and prevailed in spite of a tsunami of hate, but he is also admittedly afraid of a lot of things. Such as water, heights, and rollercoasters to name a few. And it is my estimation that he is extremely afraid of his feelings for Harry, and afraid of being with him in public.
It has never been difficult to see Zayn has been reluctant if not outright terrified of a life with Harry. So in order to avoid the possibility of it, I believe he forces himself to take steps with females (like tattoos, engagements, and oddly timed babies) that are extreme enough to convince the girls, himself, his family, and the general public that he is happy and in love (and therefore Harry is irrelevant.)
Also, Harry confirmed that Zayn was afraid in “Golden” when he responded to Zayn’s “Golden” from 2016: “I know that you’re scared because hearts get broken. I know that you’re scared because I’m so open.”
So we know from Harry’s lyrics that Zayn is not just battling the fear of coming out, but he is also battling a fear of how Harry will handle his heart. He still struggles to trust Harry in that regard apparently, and I don’t think that’s because Harry is an untrustworthy individual. Not in the least. I think it’s because Zayn is a distrusting individual. Meaning he keeps everyone at a distance.
He admitted this in “Common” “I don’t know why I was so defensive, I’ll find a way to LET YOU IN…” And what was Harry begging for in Fine Line? “LET ME INSIDE, I want to get to know you…spreading you open is the only way of knowing you…”
Zayn also made it clear he was reluctant to be with Harry in “You Wish You Knew” a song that Harry responded to pretty directly with “Sunflower Vol 6” as well as Fine Line (the song.) Let’s take a small detour to talk about the significance of the lyrics in these two songs centered around their theoretical 2018 breakup (and in the case of Sunflower, Harry’s longing to reconnect.)
“You Wish You Knew” seems to be yet another song where Zarry’s perspectives on their relationship are at variance. Presumably, Harry wants to be with Zayn, based on Still The One for instance, but they are always at a point of crisis because Zayn struggles with the idea of being with Harry in a conventional sense. Zayn says:
“Girl I got a problem, unless we trust, you can be the best friend or you can be the one.“
Zayn knows Harry has the potential to be his bff or his lover. They have unofficially toggled this line since they first met. They were always friends who fooled around and eventually fell in love. But it’s clear Zayn has never been ok with Harry just being his friend. He is admittedly addicted to the physical aspect of their relationship. Even so, he puts this friend-zone line out there, and in one of the bitterest songs Harry has written thus far (“To Be So Lonely”) he responds: “Don’t call me baby again, you got your reasons. I know you’re trying to be friends, I know you mean it.”
Ugh, can they not. Anyway, Zayn continues:
“Don’t want to put my love in you. Don’t want to make a headline and lose. Don’t want to be the one that you choose.”
Here Zayn makes it even clearer that it’s Harry he’s talking about. He acknowledges that he is the reluctant one; the one hesitant to put his love in Harry like Harry mentioned in “Golden.” Zayn also acknowledges that he doesn’t want to make headlines with Harry in case their relationship doesn’t work out. We know he’s not afraid of making BS headlines with Gigi since that’s all the internet has been inundated with since they got together in late 2015. Therefore, it only makes sense that he fears “making headlines” with Harry about their relationship and essentially outing himself, if in the end he and Harry will only break up anyway. It sounds like coming out is something he would only ever consider doing with Harry, and if their relationship doesn’t work out, then he would rather the world never knew about it. (This is such a toxic and flawed and unfair rationale that I can’t even talk about it here.)
“Do you hear yourself when you speak? Do you hear yourself constantly talking shit, trying to act like you’re mad, I don’t know you like that…”
So you see this almost taunting language Zayn uses here. It’s like when Harry is upset with him or arguing with him, he seemingly sets Harry in his place by making it seem as if they’re not close, and as if Harry doesn’t even really know him (even after all this time.) He says: “I don’t know you like that” which is something you say to someone who is being overly familiar. Like if someone probes into your private business or hugs you a little too close or plays with your money, the comeback is: “stop, I don’t know you like that.” I don’t think this linked song is in anyway an inspiration for Zayn’s use of this phrase, but I’m just giving an example of someone using it in the way I described above: “Get back, get back, you don’t know me like that…”
Zayn then goes on in the remainder of the song to make it crystal clear that he meant it in this very cold and distancing regard, because he then taunts the person (Harry) by saying, you don’t even really know me, but you wish you did. “I’m the one the one the one that, you wish you knew.”
So, to say this to someone instantly sets them in their place. It is perfectly natural to say this to a stranger who oversteps your boundaries, but it is quite a cruel thing to say to someone whom you have a history with and whom you have been romantic with, because you have already given them the false impression that the two of you are close (and therefore know each other very well) because you two have been physically intimate (i.e. as close as two human beings can possibly be.)
So Zayn seems to be employing that language in this particular song to distance himself from Harry and probably distance himself from the demands that Harry might’ve been making on his life (i.e. pleading to be with him in a traditional sense or asking him not to be with Gigi.) For Harry, that line “I don’t know you like that” would be quite jarring and would belie everything he thought he knew of their relationship, especially after the theoretical reconciliation they had in 2017/2018.
Truth be told, this is actually a very sad interpretation of the song “You Wish You Knew” as well as Harry’s response-lyrics in Fine Line, and I don’t like it one bit. Certainly Harry has put in the time and knows Zayn better than anyone else, but Zayn won’t admit that out of pride. Even though knowing him is a privilege Harry has undoubtedly earned over the years, Zayn seems to rob him of that in an instant with these harsh lyrics. Although it’s clear Zayn only did this while they were fighting and while Harry was “talking sh*t,” it still clearly had lasting effects because Harry responded to those specific lyrics out of hundreds of others in that 27-track-album.
What’s REALLY sad is that, again, Harry capitulates. Never Zayn. And Harry already told us he’s used to being the one who has to break first. (“Why won’t you ever be the first one to break?”) Harry is again the one who compromises. In Fine Line, he’s basically like: “You’re right…I guess I don’t really know you, but I certainly want to.” Then he repeatedly asks to be let inside, and then follows it up with “spreading you open is the only way of knowing you.” Meaning in FL (the song) he has essentially admitted defeat to the concept of Zayn never letting him inside in an emotional sense, so he’ll just stick to the physical (spreading him open physically to enter him literally…woah…such a intensely intimate visual.)
He has also given up on Zayn ever talking (“you don’t have to say nothing”) and he has given up on Zayn ever belonging to him exclusively (“you don’t have to say you’re mine”) and he has given up on Zayn ever expressing love for him (“you don’t have to say you love me.”) Although, Zayn quickly rectified that last one in “Better” with: “Cause I love you, yeah baby I love you. I love you, I tell you I love you.”
So, in “Tightrope” the tides have changed. Zayn sets out to break his normal patterns, which had been thoroughly established in the previous years of their relationship, as well as in his last two albums. He sets the sexual aspect of their relationship aside entirely. There is not a single mention of it, but he does still make a reference to their physical intimacy and how significant it is to him apart from the sex.
“Sitting with my legs across your torso” Not that these following images are exactly what Zayn is describing, but they do demonstrate how comfortable Zayn was throwing his legs all over Harry, and Harry was comfortable holding him this way.
These words are evocative of so many things, but mainly it alludes to the fact that Zayn is speaking of someone whose physical strength he relies on, and who is capable of bearing his weight in any capacity. This is not typically something you hear men express about a female. “Torso” is also the least delicate way to describe a woman’s waist, therefore making it an interesting word choice on Zayn’s part, giving us leeway to envision he is basically straddling a male partner’s lap. Loads of you messaged me about this in the question box after you heard that lyric and said it does NOT sound like he is describing anything to do with a female partner, and I wholeheartedly agreed.
Zayn also acknowledged his fear of falling (we’ll go deeper into Zayn’s prominent use of the word falling in his last two albums in a separate post) which is so extreme that he doesn’t even have his eyes open while he’s up there trying to balance himself in this precarious position for so long. If you want to get really deep, this would also mean that Zayn wasn’t moving, because his eyes were closed. So he was just suspended mid-air in terror, basically hanging from the tightrope; stagnated for all those years. Now he is entertaining the thought of letting go.
Imagining Zayn teetering on a tightrope or hanging from one with his eyes closed is more heartbreaking than I can articulate, and it is entirely contrary to the narrative we are made to believe through the media and the Hadids; the one that says he is in this picture perfect relationship, with this picture perfect family, with this cookie-cutter lifestyle fit for a Hallmark movie, replete with gingerbread house decorating and all.
I never bought that story for one second, and now I feel validated in my refusal to believe Zayn is perfectly contented or even fine. I’m sure he has his good days and enjoys his time with his family and friends immensely, but that is never enough for anyone to simply dismiss the internal dissonance they may be experiencing. All in all, Zayn is a deeply conflicted man, on multiple levels (religion, career, romance, society, etc) and nothing illustrates that more than him writing a song about being on a tightrope and preparing to let go.
“Tightrope” is groundbreaking, but few will understand just how groundbreaking it is until the full truth comes out (the same thing I say about the album Fine Line.) It haunted me from the moment I heard it over a month ago. I instantly recognized his brazen drawback to 2014, in his writing a lyric almost identical to the iconic “We are who we are when no ones watching.” Now we have the REAFFIRMED: “We are who we are when we’re alone.” Over 6 years later and NOTHING has changed. He still feels the exact same sacred intimacy with the same person who he can only be himself with when they’re entirely unaccompanied.
Here, Zayn disarms himself and welcomes the hopeful speculation that he may indeed be about to exit the proverbial closet, because he chose to include a drawback to a song (“I Won’t Mind”) from 2014 about a secret affair, which we all know was not written for Perrie or Gigi (logically due to the timing and context) and of which the video comment sections are filled with “this song is about Ziam” or “this song is about Zarry.” Zayn knew what he was doing in choosing to reference that song specifically, and that lyric coupled with the “there’s rumors we have to face” in “Calamity,” and “nobody is listening to me” blows the doors open wide for people to question Zayn’s current circumstances with Gigi.
Tightrope lacks the subterfuge he confessed to employing in “Entertainer,” it is devoid of the sexual bravado that he expresses in “Vibez,” it is without the ego of “Unfuckwithable,” and it is a great deal more optimistic than songs like “Lucozade” and Calamity. Tightrope is pure romance and profound intimacy. It is a glimpse into a version of him we only saw ever through “I Won’t Mind” (a song that was never supposed to see the light of day) and I can’t get enough of it.
I believe the neon red glow that is tempting Zayn to make a major change in his life is the one we see accompanying Harry throughout most of the “Lights Up” video. It’s a harsh almost incriminating light, but it’s also freeing in that Harry is seen bathing in this light, being emancipated by simply accepting who he is at his core, and exposing it for the world to see on National Coming Out Day (regardless of the reaction or backlash he may receive.) You can see Harry taking a breath of sheer relief. Like a weight has been lifted. How would this not be tempting to someone like Zayn who is still working so hard day and night to hold it all in? That light may be the neon red glow that’s making him want to give in.
The lyrics in “Tightrope” prove what we’ve always suspected and talked about: Zayn is living a double life. He’s teetering on a fine balance (fine line) of walking in his truth with the man he was never supposed to love or living out a loveless existence in a PR friendly, family approved, heteronormative pairing with a female. Important to note, the expression of walking a tightrope and walking a fine line are completely synonymous.
Zayn knows and has always known there is only one Harry Effing Styles, and if he lets him go, he will never find another human being like him; neither male or female. He will be left to settle for inadequate substitutes, and spend his days watching Harry take over the world from afar. And in expressing that, I adore so much that he chose these tender lyrics and performed them in Urdu, seemingly a response to Harry referring to him as the sun, sunshine, and sunflower in Fine Line, and telling him to wait for him in the sky.
Here’s what Zayn said “Tightrope” means to him: